Deep adaptation : a map for navigating climate tragedy is an academic paper authored in 2018 by a British sustainability professor called Jem Bendell. The paper calls out the sustainability profession for refusing to look climate data in the eye and admitting the possibility – and maybe the high probability – of near-term societal collapse due to climate change. Next, it proceeds to propose an agenda that makes sense if you believe that collapse might come. The paper was rejected for publication, apparently on the grounds not that it contained bad science, but that it was too negative.
I finally got around to reading it. It makes an impressive read, more or less what we would get if another brother of @matthias’s had become a climate scientist.
If there is one single document to guide and inspire EarthOS, I suggest this is it. I am taking the (grim) climate science on trust, but the social analysis sounds familiar (emphasis mine).
The West’s response to environmental issues has been restricted by the dominance of neoliberal economics since the 1970s. That led to hyper- individualist, market fundamentalist, incremental and atomistic approaches. By hyper-individualist, I mean a focus on individual action as consumers, switching light bulbs or buying sustainable furniture, rather than promoting political action as engaged citizens. By market fundamentalist, I mean a focus on market mechanisms like the complex, costly and largely useless carbon cap and trade systems, rather than exploring what more government intervention could achieve. By incremental, I mean a focus on celebrating small steps forward such as a company publishing a sustainability report, rather than strategies designed for a speed and scale of change suggested by the science. By atomistic, I mean a focus on seeing climate action as a separate issue from the governance of markets, finance and banking, rather than exploring what kind of economic system could permit or enable sustainability.
And the triad of directions for action: resilience, relinquishment, restoration.
Deep adaptation will involve more than “resilience.” It brings us to a second area of this agenda, which I have named “relinquishment.” It involves people and communities letting go of certain assets, behaviours and beliefs where retaining them could make matters worse. Examples include withdrawing from coastlines, shutting down vulnerable industrial facilities, or giving up expectations for certain types of consumption. The third area can be called “restoration.” It involves people and communities rediscovering attitudes and approaches to life and organisation that our hydrocarbon-fuelled civilisation eroded. Examples include re-wilding landscapes, so they provide more ecological benefits and require less management, changing diets back to match the seasons, rediscovering non-electronically powered forms of play, and increased community-level productivity and support.
@ilaria and @matthias, I propose an experiment. Would you guys be up for organizing an EarthOS community call on the implications of the deep adaptation paradigm for the Edgeryders community, and EarthOS itself in particular? Should we make it our mission statement? Or just keep it as one thing to pay attention to? I see it as very relevant, especially for The Reef.
It could be a way to start reaching out to the deep green part of the community, and exploring opportunities for collaborating on meaningful work. I am thinking, for example, of @trythis, @winnieponcelet, @GrahamCaswell, @janetgunter, @richdecibels and @julyandavey, but also old acquaintances renewed: @smari and @elf_pavlik and @dougald and @hexayurt and @kate_g and @bridget_mckenzie and @lucasg. The Collapsonomics crowd comes to mind, naturally.